A photo from PLN’s Reflections of Hope book. (Photo courtesy Positive Living North)

A photo from PLN’s Reflections of Hope book. (Photo courtesy Positive Living North)

“It’s turned out to be memories of hope”: residents reflect on Reflections of Hope book release

“I’ve always said that [Positive Living North] saved my life.”

“I’ve always said that [Positive Living North] saved my life.”

Those words come from Brenda Shaffer, who was at a book release for Reflections of Hope earlier this month.

The book is a compilation of photos, some from as far back as 2010, from multiple years of locally-sourced photography that Positive Living North (PLN) released annually in the form of calendars, with proceeds supporting the non-profit organization.

The idea behind the project is simple: a number of residents who use PLN’s services were given disposable cameras with no other guidance other than to take photos with them. After receiving the (sometimes hundreds of) photos, PLN staff would narrow it down to the ones that would be featured in the calendar.

“It [was] started by PLN to engage the community and take photos from a different lens [than] what you’d see in mainstream,” said Christopher Blois, who works with the organization.

Of those who came out for the event, many had a personal connection to the photos featured, either as subjects, photographers or simply people who knew others that were involved with the program.

One common theme which was touched on by those at the event was that this book release was important to honour the many people featured throughout the annual calendars who had since passed.

“It’s turned out to be memories of hope,” Shaffer noted, recalling a photo of an old friend, Elizabeth, who had since passed from stomach cancer.

“In the hospital I guess Rick from the Sally Anne brought her up some crayons and paper, because she drew some of the most beautiful pictures she had ever drawn,” said Shaffer.

“She was so at peace … and she was so missed because she was such a beautiful person.”

Shaffer said it’s tough to look at these images now, but at the same time, she is happy to know that these individuals stories will be preserved through the book and that proceeds, which go back to PLN, will be used to help others facing perilous housing situations.

She added that, for many facing homelessness, sometimes getting to spend a day being an artist was the exact sort of reset you needed.

“[It] always seemed like you’re just surviving and then the cameras show up and it’s like, I’m an artist!”

Discussing PLN, Shaffer said it goes beyond the food, noting that camraderie and security are two things the organization offers to some of the town’s most vulnerable.

Shaffer adds that even if you can’t fix someones problems overnight, it’s important to get them started down a better path, noting a woman featured in the book she knows who she said is now living at Goodacre Place.

“Does she still have the same problems she had the day before? Yeah, but she’s got one less … she can lock her door.”

PLN is a non-profit based in Smithers that offers support services for members, harm-reduction services and HIV/AIDS and HCV education and prevention.